As a Native American, Stanley Redfeather has always believed there was more to the world than what the average person could see. Learning about gargoyles and other paranormals is almost anti-climactic. Doing his job working as the foreman of his boss’s massive cattle ranch continues as normal. Occasionally, having a bunch of gargoyles, vampires, and shifters around causes a little hiccup, especially when one of them finds their Fated mate, but for the most part, it’s business as usual.
That changes when a trio of gargoyles arrive for a meeting, and after one sniff, one of them—Kultrak—claims Stanley is his Fated mate. Stanley knows what that means. He’s supposed to be the other half of the gargoyle’s soul, bond with him, and build a centuries-long life with him. While Stanley wouldn’t mind having someone to share his solitary life with, he needs to know the gargoyle more than a day before trusting the male that they’re perfect for each other.
When Stanley gets injured, will Kultrak’s protectiveness in the face of the upcoming danger drive him away or draw him nearer?
Stanley Redfeather stepped into the dining room, more than ready for the evening meal. After a day of wrestling cows for branding, he was filthy, tired, and starving. Plus, they were only half done.
I get to look forward to this for at least another day.
Still, Stanley wouldn’t trade his job for anything. He’d served as ranch foreman to his boss, Nicholas Lindson, for the last decade. He’d taken over from his own father—Richard Redfeather—when he was thirty-two. At forty-two, he was no spring chicken, but he loved the outdoors, the animals, and the physicality of it.
Keeps me young.
“Hey, boss-man,” Virgil greeted with a wide grin. The tawny-haired wrangler looked him up and down while chuckling softly. “Lookin’ a little stiff, sir. Need me to ask Maggie for some muscle-relieving salve?”
“Laugh it up, Virgil,” Stanley grumbled with a mock frown. “If you weren’t a shifter, you’d be just as sore as me.”
As a Native American, Stanley had always believed that there was more out there than what many humans thought. When Nicholas had brought home Bodb, revealing that gargoyles were real, Stanley hadn’t been too shocked. The fact that Virgil, someone he’d worked with for several years, was a cougar shifter had been a bigger surprise. Stanley had wondered how he’d missed that.
Of course, then Stanley had realized that was the nature of paranormals. They hid in plain sight, carefully hiding their differences. Anonymity was their greatest defense against discrimination.
As sad as the fact was, every minority group in existence had been persecuted at one time or another. Some were still persecuted. Minority groups changed over the years, but the heart of man didn’t seem to.
“Maybe not muscle sore, but that damn calf got me good, and I still feel it.” Virgil’s words drew Stanley out of his errant thoughts. The shifter was rubbing his thigh and shaking his head, his expression rueful. “Didn’t move quite fast enough. I’ve already bruised.”
Stanley recalled the young bull-calf that had managed to kick Virgil. He winced in sympathy.
“Bet Shaw was happy to massage some cream on it, though,” Stanley teased, removing his moccasins and leaving them in the mudroom.
Virgil had recently found his fated mate in a small wombat shifter. According to their beliefs, the pair were bound at the soul level. They would never stray and were completely devoted to each other.
Stanley could admit, at least to himself, that the notion was sweet. Although, he couldn’t imagine jumping in with both feet as fast as paranormals did once they found that special someone. Having been burned in a relationship more than once, Stanley didn’t trust easily anymore.
One-offs every few months are just fine with me.
“Yep. Shaw helped me out plenty,” Virgil agreed with an eyebrow waggle. With a shake of his head, he added, “After reading me the riot act for getting hurt, of course.”
Stanley nodded as they both headed into the main house’s huge dining room. He noticed Virgil had already showered, something he was still looking forward to doing. Stanley intended to eat fast and get back to his foreman’s cottage to enjoy a soak in his jetted tub.
Perks of being the foreman.
The smell of the stew caused Stanley’s stomach to rumble, and he hurried to the sideboard. A massive vat of the stuff already waited there. Grabbing a plate and a bread bowl, he did his best to ignore Virgil greeting Shaw with a deep kiss.
The wombat shifter helped Pauline—a fox shifter—in the kitchen. He also gave Mitchel a hand in his greenhouse, which was a new addition to the ranch. Pauline and Mitchel were mated with gargoyles—Lebone and Sindrid, respectively—and had joined them a few years back after Bodb had moved in. As it turned out, Bodb was a gargoyle elder—one of the ruling members of their race—and he always had at least two gargoyles patrolling the ranch for safety.
After filling his bread bowl with the hearty-looking beef stew, Stanley grabbed a beer from the mini-fridge under the sideboard and moved to the table. He placed his food and drink on it before settling in a chair. Stanley barely managed to keep in his sigh of pleasure at getting off his feet.
The first bite of his meal drew a contented grunt from Stanley. He’d never been more grateful than when Pauline and Lebone had arrived. She’d immediately taken over the kitchen, making it her own. While the housekeeper who’d retired just prior to Pauline’s arrival had kept them fed, Pauline was so much better. Plus, being a fox shifter herself, no one needed to explain about making extra-huge meals for all the paranormals around.
Over the last couple of years, they’d even had a couple of vampires join them, which came in handy if a visiting client saw something they shouldn’t. A vampire had the ability to peer into a human’s mind and alter memories. That was how the species hid the fact that they were drinking a person’s blood.
Stanley finished half his stew before tearing off a chunk of the bread bowl. After dipping it into the broth, he popped it into his mouth. He hummed appreciatively as he chewed.
Watching those around him tuck into their own meals, Stanley listened to the other men’s sighs of pleasure and contentment. He smiled at his food, chewing another bite. For the most part, the only conversation was if someone wanted the salt or pepper passed.
Men and their food.
Finishing up his meal, Stanley contemplated getting seconds. He supposed he didn’t really need it, but it sure tasted fantastic. Giving in, he rose and returned to the sideboard.
Besides, I still have over half my bread bowl. I’ll just get a little.
Stanley peered over his shoulder at the over a dozen men—many in gargoyle form—and called, “Anyone want anything while I’m up?”